After more than 30 years in the workforce, I am writing this letter to my younger self, in hindsight, with some professional advice. As they say “When you know better, you do better”. And while I can not turn back the hands of time, I live with no regrets. However, I would like to offer some lessons learned that may help other single, young, female professionals (especially the nerdy, introverted ones). I hope it educates, inspires, or bring smiles. If you think it will be helpful to someone that you know, pass it on. Let’s do this!
Your mom was right. To sustain yourself in life, you will have to use your brains or your muscles. Those temp positions to fill box after box with leaflets, or file mounds of paperwork from insurance claims (which, by the way, will leave you with a thousand paper cuts) are mind numbing! I know you will be happier using your head.
You have good work ethics. You are reliable and you always make your best effort. Remember that advice you heard? …”Always do a great job and you will be rewarded.” It’s bullshit. Sorry, you know I don’t habitually curse but I need to get my point across. Seriously, don’t believe that shit for a minute! Here is where you need to keep using your smarts. Doing a great job and believing that someone will notice and reward you for a job well done doesn’t always happen. YOU have to own your career from day one. Track your contributions within your organization and quantify it (I suggest logging it in Excel). For example: At the Acme Company, you were responsible for ABC and did 1, 2, and 3. You did XYZ (in bullets) and as a result, you saved the team X percent of time and/or expenses by doing Y (give an noteworthy outcome for each bullet). I also suggest you do this regularly, like once a week, or once per month. Be detailed and give specifics – unfortunately, people starting from college are not given a heads up. What’s the benefit? Well, when it comes time to discuss your performance and a well deserved raise, you will have an arsenal of tangible results to show for it. The same holds true when managing a team, document it so that there is a record. That way, you won’t have to rely on your memory at the eleventh hour. Oh, and on your resume, add those contributions. Don’t only list your responsibilities or the job description, it’s not saying much and it doesn’t set you apart from the rest.
Next, keep your personal life, personal. I get it. You are young. You want to develop a good rapport and establish relationships and maybe even hang out with co-workers during happy hour. That’s great because working relationships are important. But know where to draw the line. Your co-workers are not counselors nor are they there to be your best friend. They are up for the same promotions and raises as you. Everyone’s perception of you is reality (whether or not their perception is true). And you have to manage perceptions, both laterally with your peers and upwardly with management.
If you had your way, you could work quietly in a corner until it’s time to retire (and it’s OK to want to do that). But I know you. I know you better than you know yourself, at this point. You are missing an opportunity to share your knowledge with others, be the source of change, and make an impact. To add, people appreciate your unique perspective! Be a voice at the table. You don’t know this yet, but you have wowed some executives with your thought leadership. Let the introvert out now and then. Put yourself on broadcast. It’s good for the soul. And if someone doesn’t like what you say, so what! Some people are the glass-half-empty kind of thinker. Don’t let them stop your sun from shining. And there is nothing wrong with letting people know that your gears are churning.
Lastly, don’t be complacent (even when you get that job that pays like it’s raining). This may sound harsh, but you have not arrived. Statistics show that females are still making less than men for the same job. There are not enough female executives in Fortune 500 companies. There is not enough representation or expanding opportunities for minority women. To add, there is something that people will refer to as the “glass ceiling”. You can’t let that stop you. Be radical. Be a badass. Be a mushroom-laying moe-foe, kick that bitch into pieces, and stomp it down. No, it will not feel comfortable. Some may even call YOU the “B” word or a trouble-maker. So what. Pave the way for the next generation of females (who, by the way, spend a lot of time on their cell phones…but I digress). Take a stand and don’t apologize for doing that.
Oh, a few more random things! Remember when you had that encounter with Michael Jordan? This was before their first championship win. Yeah, that Michael Jordan. The two of you locked eyes and he asked where you were going. Umm-hmm. Right. Gurrlll, some things are not meant to be (trust me on this one). You will meet the right one when you least expect it, and it will last. Money will be tight when you finish college. That doesn’t mean you should buy whatever is on sale. Meaning, if you come across a pair of yellow kitten heels, an electric blue 2-pc suit, MC Hammer pants, or stockings that don’t match your skin tone, leave it at the store. Buy stock in Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and CocaCola – you will make a killing.
Well, the older and more mature me is ready for bed. I …uhhh, we are still big dreamers who laugh out loud and walk humbly. So! Enjoy your youth, cut back on the carbs, and stay true to yourself. In closing, you are loved. And I wish you the best of everything.
P.S. You are also a generous soul and take delight in giving to others. So I posted another giveaway on the contest page because I knew you would like that (bwahhaaahhaaa)!
Readers! Any tips to share with your younger self (…from 2, 5, 20 years ago)? Leave a comment with your best advice. Then head over to the giveaway page and enter to win the You Are A Badass giveaway!